What it's like to have bipolar disorder: How one woman’s diagnosis changed her life ‘in a beautiful way’

Jenny Miller

Although Hannah Blum always suspected she was different from other kids, and began displaying symptoms that affected her physical and emotional state at a very young age, she didn’t come close to getting the help she needed until she was 20. 

That’s when she suffered a breakdown, explaining now to Yahoo Life that her emotions consumed her so much that she felt she was “withering away.” Blum, who had always hid her struggle behind popularity, including her reign as prom queen, was taken to the doctor and, hours later, woke up to find herself in restraints. Shortly thereafter she received her official diagnosis: bipolar disorder, a mental disorder that “causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health

This was actually a blessing in disguise for Blum, who says her life has changed “in a beautiful way” since learning about her diagnosis. “I was no longer pretending to be someone else, to feel something else,” she says. “I got to rebuild myself in the way that I wanted to.”

Just before graduating from college, she decided to turn down a job offer, publicly disclose her diagnosis and head down a different road — one guided by her passion for mental health activism. Ever since, Blum has devoted her life to sharing her story to help others with bipolar disorder, and to ease the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

Discussing the many misconceptions linked to people with bipolar disorder, Blum says, “You see us in the movies and we're always the villain. That's the role that we have been told we play, but that is far from the truth.” She also refers to recent media coverage of Kanye West’s behavior, explaining that people referring to him as a “bipolar nutjob” is a form of ableism. “You are contributing to a stigma that kills people,” Blum says.

Speaking out is just another way she continues the fight to end such stigma, adding to the work that she does with her blog, Halfway to Hannah, and through her novel, The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-love. That’s because she believes that once people with mental illnesses feel empowered, “they'll stop stigmatizing themselves, and we'll be able to grow as a community.”

Video Produced by Jenny Miller

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